Teaching Students with Disabilities

Students with disabilities, like all students, bring a unique set of strengths and experiences to NDSU. While many learn in different ways, their differences do not mean they are not good students. Although some may manage without accommodations, many students count on Reasonable Accommodations, including modifications in the way information is presented, and in methods of testing and evaluation, to successfully meet their course requirements. These accommodations are determined and approved by Disability Services in consultation with the student and in the context of a review of the student’s history and documentation.

Students with disabilities bear the primary responsibility for identifying their disabilities and for requesting the necessary accommodations to the learning environment. This is done in collaboration between the Center for Accessibility and Disability Resources and faculty members.

It is the faculty’s responsibility to ensure that the accommodations determined and approved by the Center for Accessibility and Disability Resources are provided to the student in a timely and responsive manner.

General Considerations

Some students with disabilities identify themselves by contacting the Disability Services and/or their instructors before or early in the semester. Others may not. Students with disabilities are not obligated to register with campus offices of disability services. 

Some disabilities are noticeable through casual observation and immediately recognizable, for example, by the use of a cane, a wheelchair, or crutches. Other students have what are known as hidden disabilities, which are usually not apparent. These may include learning disabilities, emotional or psychological conditions, or non-obvious medical conditions. Some students may present with multiple disabilities. 

If you suspect that a student has a disability, refer them to Disability Services. Do not make assumptions about students’ abilities or comment on student’ “presumed” disabilities if those disabilities are not visible. 

It is crucial that the faculty member includes a statement in the class syllabus (see example) encouraging students with disabilities to arrange accommodations early in the semester. 

The objective of academic adjustments is always to accommodate the student’s disability, not to reduce the academic requirements of the course. 

Technology in the Classroom and for Online Courses

Online course accessibility

NDSU offers courses through online systems, which offer opportunities and challenges for students with disabilities. Although the asynchronous nature and remote access to these courses can eliminate physical and transportation barriers, the technologies used to create online courses can also hinder access. Following are some suggestions to assist faculty in ensuring that online classes are accessible:

Reading materials should be available in accessible electronic formats.

Make sure, whenever scanning print materials that you will post on course websites, to create files that have been recognized as text by optical character recognition software, not simply scanned as images or copies, which will ensure access to blind or other students with print disabilities.

  • Video and audio recordings should be captioned and or transcripts provided.
  • Graphics and images should be labeled with descriptive text tags.
  • Use one-on-one discussions with any student needing accommodation to better understand how to provide access to your course.
  • When creating PDF files, be sure not to lock them with security features so as to prevent access.
  • Whenever possible, convert your course material into formatted text rather than relying on a scanned picture of a printed page.
  • When creating presentations and posting them on course web sites for students, convert your presentation to a common format like RTF (Rich Text Format) to allow for better access.

Ask IT or Disability Services if software or services are available that make accessibility and conversion of course material to accessible formats easier.
Science Labs can present unique challenges for students across a wide range of disabilities. From reading instruments to navigating through space, these challenges are usually manageable with some forethought and planning. This can be done with the approach that measuring a student’s ability to understand and learn is a primary objective.

Alternative Text for Students with Disabilities

Under various federal and state laws and regulations any student who is deemed to be “print disabled” as a consequence of a learning, visual, or other physical disability is entitled to receive copies of any printed instructional materials in any of a variety of accessible alternate formats from the publishers of those instructional materials. These alternate formats can include electronically scanned versions of textbooks, or HTML, PDF, or Microsoft Word formatted documents.

Students should contact Disability Service for assistance obtaining these alternate formatted materials prior to the start of the semester.
Faculty can expedite this process by posting information about required textbooks or other course materials prior to the beginning of the semester.

Top of page